Accusations against the Israeli company, Nikuv, for allegedly helping rig the Zimbabwe election have been flying thick and fast.
The company (Nikuv International Projects) itself makes no bones of its Africa connections. Its website declares: “NIP has nearly two decades of proven experience in developing and implementing sophisticated IT and civil management systems in leading African countries. Time and time again, NIP is chosen for strategic national projects due to its expertise, professionalism, reliability and flexibility in development and implementation.”
But what do we know of its Africa record?
Zimbabwe: The first allegation against the company came on 17 April 2013.
Eddie Cross, an MP with Morgan Tsvangirai’s opposition party, the MDC, said party officials were scheduled to meet with the state election body within days on the voters’ lists and to question the role in election preparations of an Israeli computer technology company that specializes in population registration and election systems that has raised new fears of high-tech manipulation of results. Cross said the company Nikuv has expanded its facilities and increased its staff in the country and is believed to be working with military and intelligence chiefs loyal to Mugabe in Harare.
On 10 July 2013 Zimbabwe’s Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti, also from the MDC, alleged that Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party had employed what he called the “notorious” Israeli company Nikuv International Projects to rig the vote by manipulating the voters’ roll. “This company has been associated with election shenanigans in few dubious African elections and this is not acceptable at all,” said Biti. “We are taking measures to ensure that their legal status is qualified and clarified because we know they have no legal status.”
Zambia: Here the most direct allegations of previous vote rigging are to be found.
On 23 April 1998 it was reported that Nikuv Computers of Israel has won a contract to issue a new type of National Registration Cards (NRCs).
Under the contract $11.2m contract , Nikuv Computers would also correct mistakes made between 1986 and 1987 when some people were issued with NRCs bearing similar numbers. Home Affairs Minister Peter Machungwa said at a Press briefing in his office that the exercise would commence before the local government elections to enable those attaining voting age participate in the polls.
The following day opposition parties called for the contract to be cancelled. “Unip secretary-general Sebastian Zulu said his party will always object to anything associated with Nikuv while his counterpart in National Party (NP) Ludwig Sondashi said his party detested the contracting of Nikuv once again to issue the new NRCs.
As the years passed, the allegations against Nikuv continued to grow.
In January 2010 the opposition party, UNIP on the Copperbelt Province urged President Rupiah Banda’s government to change the current electoral process before the 2011 elections in order to provide a level playing field for all political parties that would take part in the polls. In a telephone interview, UNIP Copperbelt provincial chairman Isaac Zgambo said the current electoral process was not favouring all political parties except the ruling MMD as it had a lot of flaws.
“The government should change the entire electoral process, it is not favourable to all political parties. Look at the way the issuance of national registration cards NRCs is being done; a lot of people who have attained the voting age are going to be defranchised because they have not obtained their national registration cards. So how do you expect them to participate in voting?” he asked.
Zgambo said UNIP in 1996 boycotted the election because of the similar flaws in the electoral process like the use of NIKUV cards which the party was against.
“I know comrade PF leader Michael Sata and comrade Guy Scott will say the current electoral process is okay if they win the elections, because they were part of that NIKUV tactics, which the government of Rupiah Banda is trying to employ so that he could win the 2011 elections,” he claimed.
Ghana and Botswana: Not all of Nikuv’s African projects have been as controversial.
In 2003, the company bid for contracts in Ghana.
Again, this involved a system of National identity documentation.
And in 2009 it was reported that Nikuv was supplying documentation for Botswana – including visas, trading licences, work and residence permits. So too were identity documents.
Interestingly, the company’s website shows offices in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Angola and South Africa. Contacted today, the company said they had no-one who could speak to the media, although they offered to return a call.